Question: How many children did Joseph and Mary (Polly) Fairbanks have before they became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Answer: Joseph Fairbanks IV was born in Templeton, Massachusetts on October 15, 1778. He was the only son of Joseph Fairbanks III and Asenath Osgood Fairbanks, although they had five daughters. His father was a Revolutionary soldier, having enlisted when he was fifteen years of age.
Joseph married Mary (Polly) Brooks on October 3, 1803 in Princeton, Worcester, Massachusetts. Their marriage was the uniting of two fine old New England families. To this couple, thirteen children were born, nine sons and four daughters.
Shortly after their marriage, they took up residence in Peru, Bennington, Vermont, where seven of their children were born. Next they moved to Sandy Hill, Warren County, New York, where five more children were born. In the spring of 1826 they moved to Rockaway, Morris County, New Jersey. Here their youngest child, was born. They left there in 1830 and moved to Meads Basin, now known as Mountain View, Bergen County, New Jersey.
Joseph, by trade, was a stonemason and contractor. He contracted New Jersey’s Morris Canal which is still in use. During the summer of 1843 and the early part of the winter in 1844, Joseph and some members of the family accepted the teaching of John Leach, a Mormon missionary, and became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In the summer of 1844, Joseph, his wife and five of their children, David, John Boylston, Harriet, Nathaniel and Henry, journeyed by team to Nauvoo, Illinois, which was the headquarters of the Church. They were able to live in Nauvoo just a short time, as the mob violence and persecution forced them to leave Nauvoo on April 25, 1846. Joseph and his older sons were able to work on the Nauvoo Temple until it was completed. Joseph and Mary received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple in February before they had to leave. They journeyed westward, camping for the winter at Winter Quarters.
Their son, Nathaniel, age 23, was asked to be in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company, which headed west in the summer of 1847. That group arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Nathaniel Fairbanks was part of the 10th Company of Ten led by Appleton M. Harmon. Heber C. Kimball recorded in his journal, “We saw brother Nathaniel Fairbanks who had just returned from the bluffs, having been bit on the back of the leg by a large rattlesnake. He appeared very sick indeed…Bro. Fairbanks is out of danger and considerably better…I went over to his wagon, and with President Young and Elder Benson laid hands on him.’ Nathaniel later decided to go to California. He drowned on March 29, 1853, at age 29, while crossing a river near Stockton, California. Losing Nathaniel almost broke his mother’s heart.
Their youngest son, Henry, joined up with the Mormon Battalion. When Henry returned from serving with the Mormon Battalion, he was somewhat discontented, and he went back to Iowa.
Because of the severity of the winter, Joseph Fairbanks, age 68, died on February 28, 1847 and was buried at Winter Quarters. After his death, his widow, Polly, continued on to Utah with their children and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on October 6, 1847. Her son David was called to be the first Bishop of the First Ward in Salt Lake, with another son, John Boylston, as the ward clerk. Polly and her family remained in Salt Lake until 1851, at which time they went south to Payson, Utah, to settle. Those who went with her were her sons, David and John Boylston, and their families. Her daughter, Harriet, and her husband and family stayed in Salt Lake.
By this time, Polly was seventy-three years old. The long hard tedious journey west, the rigorous pioneer life, the loss of her companion and her son, had taken a toll on her health. In 1858, her son, David, built a room onto his home for his mother, so she could be by herself when she so desired. This enabled her to still be near her family, while at the same time maintaining some degree of independence.
Her children whom she left in the East never joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but they did keep up a continual correspondence with her. Polly had lost four of her children early in life. Polly died at the age of almost 80, on 24 January 24, 1860.
Source: “Brief History of Joseph Fairbanks 1778-1847,’ Written by a great, great, granddaughter, Kathryn Fairbanks Kirk, FamilySearch.org; Utah Mormon Pioneer Overland Trail; “Brief History of Mary (Polly) Brooks 1780-1860,’ Written by a great, great, granddaughter Kathryn Fairbanks Kirk, FamilySearch.org